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PEP Feb 2004
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Public Employee Press

Union rejects city contract offer

   
 

FACING CITY NEGOTIATORS Jan. 16 are (from right) DC 37 Pres. Veronica Montgomery-Costa, Exec. Director Lillian Roberts, Negotiations Director Dennis Sullivan and SSEU Local 371 Pres. Charles Ensley.

 

By GREGORY N. HEIRES

In the latest bargaining session on Jan. 16, DC 37 rejected the city’s initial wage offer. The proposal also stressed the demand management made earlier for a mandatory 40-hour workweek for all employees covered by the economic agreement.

Since it does not provide any retroactive pay, the wage offer would have amounted to a salary freeze of at least a year and a half for more than 100,000 municipal workers. The previous contract expired on June 30, 2002.

DC 37 Executive Director Lillian Roberts called the offer an insult to members, especially after Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg praised the municipal labor force the previous day in a budget address.

“We have been busting our humps to make the city work,” said Ms. Roberts, noting that the city is down 14,000 positions from a year ago.

Productivity is up

DC 37 members have raised their productivity as they get the work done with less staff. Since their last wage increase, they have been hit with sharp increases in rent, transit fares, taxes and tuition.

Upon her re-election by the DC 37 Delegates Council on Jan. 27, Ms. Roberts called for renewed intense negotiations to reach an economic agreement.

City Labor Relations Commissioner James F. Hanley presented the 2-year proposal — a wage increase without retroactivity, the 40-hour workweek and more — as part of what he called a comprehensive package. The proposal also included some of the original demands that the city presented to the union in February 2003:

  • hiring new workers at 90 percent of normal starting pay
  • cutting the terminal leave credit for outgoing workers from one day’s pay for every two accumulated sick days to a day’s pay for every three sick days
  • abolishing summer hours and restrictions on transfers
  • establishing a new pension tier, and
  • eliminating reverse out-of-title grievances.

DC 37 stepped up its pressure for a wage offer after municipal unions and the city reached a major accord on health and other benefits in December (see page 10).

Members of the DC 37 Negotiating Committee reacted coolly to the wage offer partly because of the lingering bitterness over the 1995-2000 economic agreement, which included a two-year wage freeze.

During contract talks, the union and city traditionally agree not to disclose the details of wage offers and counteroffers, partly to avoid the media spotlight and keep politics from interfering with negotiations.

Committee members expressed outrage over the 40-hour workweek proposal, which would increase the workday of many members by as much as 14 percent. Three-quarters of DC 37 members work 35 hours a week.

Responding to the union’s rejection of the city proposal, Mr. Hanley said, “We don’t have the money. There is no money in this budget. We are so far apart here that perhaps we should all think about invoking third party intervention at this point.”
Dennis Sullivan, the union’s director of research and negotiations, countered, “We have had profound differences before and have been able to close.”

Mr. Sullivan noted that in his January fiscal address, Mr. Bloomberg said his proposed budget represents a public policy decision to take care of people. The city should also regard the contract as an opportunity to improve the economic livelihood of its workforce, Mr. Sullivan said.

 

 
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